This chapter draws together the strands of the argument across the volume and makes the case for thinking of Moscow’s activity in terms of Grand Strategy rather than ad hoc or opportunistic and short-term moves. It frames the wider international context of globalisation and the “global village” discussion in international security, noting that if the US, NATO, China, and other states have adopted a more global horizon, so has Moscow. The chapter argues further that seeing Russian activity in strategic terms is essential for shaping effective policies for deterrence, defence, and, where possible, dialogue. It will serve to clarify both Moscow’s shifting mental maps (and red lines) in the post-Cold War period and now the era of Great Power Competition.
This chapter frames the book’s argument, introducing the core themes. It first sketches out how Russian activity is understood in Euro-Atlantic capitals, particularly the debate over whether Moscow is acting strategically or opportunistically. It then frames Moscow’s view that international affairs are in structural transition and dominated by intensifying geopolitical and geoeconomic rivalry. Senior Russian officials assert growing competition for the global commons and for access to energy resources, transit routes, and markets. Such competition is considered likely to increase during the 2020s and to be a potential cause of conflict. The Russian leadership sees this transition as offering serious risks and also potential benefits, and this view guides Russian strategic thinking and activity. The Russian military has sought to enhance its positions in the “strategically important global areas”. This has been most notable in the Middle East and in parts of Africa, and increasingly visibly in North Africa. Activity in the Indian and Pacific Oceans suggests that Moscow is engaged in establishing a presence there. Moscow seeks to link economic capacity across regions through major infrastructure projects. If Moscow’s prioritisation of the Northern Sea Route – an “Ice Silk Road” – is the most obvious, a number of other ambitious projects seek to link Europe to China and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Russia’s role as a supplier of strategically important goods
Russia’s ability to compete in the international economy is often underestimated. Russia’s potential to use economic instruments to assert its interests abroad is significant because its comparative advantage lies in the sale of strategically important goods. Consequently, Russia is one of the most important producers and exporters of hydrocarbons, and it has emerged as one of the leading exporters of armaments, nuclear power plants, and grain. Moscow has extended its economic and political influence well beyond traditional markets in Europe and the former Soviet Union. The desire to expand exports of strategically important goods is a theme consistently articulated by Russian officials since 2000. Since 2010, Russia has expanded such exports beyond traditional markets in Europe and the former Soviet Union. This is matched by an expansion of goods exports more broadly, with Moscow cultivating new markets across the world. Russia has been relatively successful in effecting these plans, especially in Asia and the MENA region. The expansion of strategically important exports has involved the coordinated action of a number of ministries and state corporations, and the Ministries of Agriculture, Energy, and Defence. Russia’s economic presence across the globe has significantly grown. Progress has not always been smooth. The relatively slow build time for NPPs has prevented Rosatom from fulfilling its export potential. And the threat of US sanctions may hinder Moscow’s drive to expand arms sales further. But these obstacles have not prevented Russia from emerging as one of the world’s leading suppliers of strategically important goods.
Moscow has inherited the cartographic legacy of the Soviet Union, whose global mapping project forms the foundation of Russia's enhanced geospatial capability. The most comprehensive cartographic endeavour of the twentieth century involved the production of thousands of detailed topographic maps that covered the planet at various scales. This unparalleled resource of geospatial intelligence has encouraged a geostrategic perspective of truly planetary horizons, while the recent implementation of digital geospatial technologies, including geographical information systems (GIS) and satellite navigation, has enabled and facilitated Russian globally integrated operations. This chapter outlines Russia's geospatial trajectory from its inheritance of Soviet military mapping towards a unified geographic information space and evaluates the strategic advantages this offers.
Energy is integral to the Russian leadership's vision of Russia as a great power engineering a structural transition in international affairs to a polycentric world. If energy makes an essential contribution to the federal budget, it is therefore both bound up with questions of national security and how Moscow seeks to project influence across the world. Indeed, official documents state that energy is a state instrument for conducting internal and external policy, and Russia's role on world energy markets determines its geopolitical influence. This chapter examines the role of energy in contemporary Russian Grand Strategy by looking at how Russia is seeking to break into new markets, develop new transit routes, and claim a larger share of world resources. It examines the development of oil and gas in the Arctic, and the importance of the Northern Sea Route, as well as how the Russian leadership seeks to preposition Russia in the wider global commons. It will also assess how the interests of different state actors, including state companies, the Russian military, and others align, and their roles in shaping and creating strategy.
What place does the maritime domain occupy in Russia’s twenty-first-century global strategy? Post-Soviet Russia, especially in the past two decades, has increasingly looked to the world’s oceans for opportunity, security, and influence. It is driven to do so by a combination of economic need, strategic military concerns, and increased global integration. Furthermore, Moscow’s global power aspirations propel Russia into the maritime domain, and the nation sees its economic future, its national security, and its ability to influence other nations as linked to the world’s oceans. But just as these concerns drive Russia into broader and deeper engagement at sea, so too does it bring Moscow into competition with global rivals, feeding a need to militarise its maritime frontiers. This is reflected in the various maritime strategies published by Moscow over the years, in the wider body of Russian strategic thought, and in Russia’s actual maritime activities. Ultimately, the maritime domain must be understood as occupying a central position in Russia’s strategic future, one that is at least as important as Moscow’s landward efforts.
This book offers a nuanced and detailed examination of Russia’s international activity. In broad terms, the book contributes to two of the most important current debates about contemporary Russian actions: whether Moscow is acting strategically or opportunistically, and whether this should be understood in regional or global terms. The book goes against the majority opinions on both questions, and introduces contributions in a number of under-researched themes. It argues that Moscow is not acting in a simply ad hoc, reactive way, but in a consistently strategic manner, and that this is best understood not by analysing Russia’s return to specific regions, but in a more holistic way with a global horizon, linking activity across different regions. This means that the Russian challenge is likely to continue rather than fade away. The book addresses core themes of Russian activity – military, energy, and economic. But it offers an unusual multi-disciplinary analysis to these themes, incorporating both regional and thematic specialist expertise. Underpinned by detailed analyses of the revolution in Russian geospatial capabilities and the establishment of a strategic planning foundation, the book includes chapters on military and maritime strategies, energy security, and economic diversification and influence. This serves to highlight the connections between military and economic interests that shape and drive Russian strategy.
Soviet military planners divided the world into continental and oceanic “theatres of military action” (teatri voennykh deistvii (TVDs)). These TVDs allowed the Soviet General Staff to take a regional approach to the consideration of the military geography, or the political, military, economic, physical-geographical, and cultural variables essential for military planning. Due to technological advances first observed in the 1991 Desert Storm operation and its aftermath, Russian military thinkers began developing theories about what impact these technological advances would have on regional TVDs, and even the possibility of global TVDs. Although the Russian military was in dire straits after the collapse of the Soviet Union, its fortunes have significantly improved under the reign of Vladimir Putin, as the Russian military now has the capabilities to begin implementing these theories. The Russian military is now thinking and planning in terms of globally integrated operations and uses terminology such as “aerospace TVD” and “informational TVD”. These new global TVDs have not displaced the regional TVD concept, but rather these systems appear to complement one another. This chapter outlines the TVD concept in the Soviet era, discusses the implications of Vladimir Slipchenko’s view of the changing character of war on the TVD concept, and argues that technological developments and thinking about global TVDs are driving changes in Russian force design and capability development.
The chapter explores the development of strategic planning in Russia and closely associated issues, such as the network of situation centres and a “single information space” making possible their close interaction as an aid to the country’s strategic management. There was little interest in strategic planning during the 1990s when market transformation was underway, but after Vladimir Putin became president the situation changed, and in 2009 he issued a major edict calling for the development of an integrated system of strategic planning and a network of situation centres. The intention was to create a system that would link strategies for socio-economic development with measures to ensure the country’s national security. Work started on a Law on Strategic Planning, finally signed into law in 2014. Since then, many concepts, foundations, forecasts, strategies, and programmes have appeared at federal, regional, and local levels. Presidential structures, government, and federal ministries have created a system of distributed situation centres, now being developed also at the regional level. But the systems face problems: the desired combined focus on development and national security has not been realised. The pace of development of strategic planning has slowed, and reconsideration is now underway of some of the institutions and procedures. The pursuit of a strategic approach to governance in a rapidly changing world is not as simple as initially thought, but a serious commitment to strategy remains an essential feature of the exercise of power in present-day Russia that is not always appreciated in the West.
The more things change the more they stay the same?
María J. García and Arantza Gómez Arana
This volume has shown how inter-regional relations have evolved over time, and how they have been mediated by exogenous factors, mainly US policies, economic crises and, more recently, the perceived crisis in globalisation. President Barack Obama’s approach to trade policy, with his desire to engage in mega-regional agreements in the Pacific and Atlantic spaces in order to set the global trade rules, bypass the WTO and stagnating Doha Round negotiations, and counter Chinese economic power, helped to encourage MERCOSUR states to re-engage in negotiations with the EU (Gomez-Arana 2017). Even more importantly, since the election of President Donald Trump in November 2016, the EU took on the baton of promotion of a liberal trade agenda and redoubled efforts to conclude ongoing trade negotiations with partners across the globe, in symbolic defiance of the US stance. In the 2020s EU–Latin American co-operation for a united front in defence of the liberal order, exemplified in the conclusion of EU–MERCOSUR negotiations and motivated by the need to respond to Donald Trump’s presidency, shows a renewed spirit of co-operation amongst two regions united by common values and goals. However, as in past decades, each side’s complicated domestic political and economic situations, which the Covid-19 outbreak has exacerbated, threatens to once again relegate EU–Latin American relations in the hierarchy of foreign policy priorities.